Soya Chunk Chaat
Ooh, I do feel slightly naughty when I eat street-food. It’s like eating that secret, forbidden pre-dinner burger on the way home from school, except Chaat is much more tantalising. I don’t know how we did it, my best friend and me. After college we’d detour for some wicked pleasures largely containing either pastry or potato, before returning home to a full Indian meal. Nobody ever knew.
We weren’t particularly weight, make-up or boy conscious teenagers…we loved to laugh from deep in our hearts and be happy. We laughed a lot, loudly and energetically. We sang, talked vibrantly with strangers and dreamed faithfully. We created our own joy and funnily enough we were healthy by heart, body and mind and did really well with grades. Maybe I should take up hockey again?
Crisp, sweet, sour, spongy, spicy and soft it’s all going on. A couple of chutneys smack the senses wide open and say hello to Delhi and the rickety street stalls that overflow with smiling and animated crowds, all huddled excitedly with tiny metal plates as a skilled Chaat maker crafts each serving one by one.
My personal opinion is that there is no perfect science to constructing Chaat. It really is about combining and layering textures and igniting, or even exploding the senses. There’s a tang, fire, sweetness, heat and coolness as layers of crispy sev, puffed rice, easy-going potato, sweet tomatoes, dense chick-pea and those sweet and spicy chutneys mingle. Mmmmm, sigh-some… And although I do love, love, love lashings of natural yogurt to relax the senses, I’m not so much of a fan of the softening effect it can have on chaat. Nothing worse than soggy Chaat. You could however, drizzle a little just before serving and then devour it pretty much instantly. Who could blame you?
4 cups of puffed rice (from an Asian Supermarket)
2 fresh tomatoes, cubed
½ cup of roasted peanuts
2 medium potatoes, cubed
125g of dried soya chunks
One medium sized onion, finely diced
For the green chutney
2-3 green chillies
For the tamarind chutney
1 tbsp. concentrated tamarind paste
Chilli powder to taste
The spices; grind the following spices together. 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 1 tsp. coriander seeds, ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds, 1 tsp. fennel seeds, ½ tsp. carom seeds, 1 tsp. sweet paprika, salt to taste, chilli powder to taste, 1tsp. Chaat masala
Cook’s notes: You’ll find Chaat masala at most Indian grocers and supermarkets. Some supermarkets stock it too, but it is definitely worth getting hold of, for that pungent peppery flavour it introduces. You may find different versions of the soya chunks, but essentially you want to have them cooked before you spice them up!
Some people make tamarind chutney by simply combining the water and the concentrated tamarind paste, but I think that can leave the chutney excessively tart. To allow the sweetness come through, simmer it.
- Start by making the chutney’s. The green chutney is really easy; just blitz together the coriander, chillies, salt to taste and 1/3rd cup of water until its smooth.
- To make the tamarind chutney, combine ½ cup water with the concentrated tamarind paste
- Boil the potatoes. Once they are soft enough to pierce, drain them, cool and then mix in the Chaat masala.
- Soak the soya chunks in hot water until they swell. Squeeze out the excess water, or cook per packet instructions. Then heat a tablespoon of hot oil in a pan and add the spices, frying for just 30 seconds-1 minute before adding the soya chunks and coating them well. Let them cook on a low heat for approximately 5 minutes, before turning off the heat.
- Now all you need to do is layer it. I usually go for puffed rice and nuts on the bottom, then the potatoes, tomatoes, onions and on the top, the warm soya chunks. Then the final act; drizzle them with the emerald and maroon shades with the chutney’s and eat it, quick!